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By Marion Desmazières, SW Corporate Coordinator at UP Global. Be sure to check out Coca Cola’s own recap of the event here.

Wednesday June 19, 2013

8am: Four representatives from Seattle-based UP Global enter The Coca-Cola Company AOC (Atlanta Office Complex). They’re ready to refresh innovation at Coke.

Room TEC 206 of the tech building is already swarming. A welcome sign has been drawn manually on a whiteboard by Carie Davis, former designer and now Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Director at TCCC. Her team finishes to set up the venue in order to welcome the 96 budding intrapreneurs who signed up to participate in the first internal Startup Weekend program at The Coca-Cola Company. The breakfast buffet releases a nice smell of Southern cuisine. This 2.5-day event won’t be just about food for thought…

8:30am: Registration begins. Attendees grab their Coca-Cola gift bags and then their seats… “Wait, wait, don’t sit” -suggests Franck Nouyrigat, co-founder of Startup Weekend, “go mingle with people”. The event has already started. No Talk, All Action!

9:15am: Marc Nager, CEO of UP Global, kicks off the innovation program with the “Half-Baked” game, a mini Startup Weekend in less than an hour that plays the role of a pitch simulation while being the perfect icebreaker for an event in a corporate setting.

Here is the process:

Attendees are asked to seed a whiteboard with 50 words. Some are startup-related, some Coke-related, some are just here to make the exercise fun.

Then, people are assigned numbers randomly from 1 to 16 and break into their groups by number to meet their team members. Team leaders are selected and then given the weighty task to run up at the count of 3 and circle two words which will be the makings of their “future startup”. First-come first-serve! Then teams have 15 minutes to come up with a business model, a logo & and a 15-second elevator pitch which, of course, will be timed by hard-nosed facilitators. The game is chaotic but hilarious.

See Marc run the microphone around the room to listen to pitches based on surprising combinations: wobble + sex, yoghurt + love, mindful + bacon, sustainability + hairdo, nuclear + awesome, goat + cloud, etc.

10am: Carie Davis officially announces the beginning of the program and hands the mic over to David Butler, VP of Innovation at TCCC who says a few encouraging words for the attendees who accepted to dedicate 2.5 days of their work week to start up new projects. However it’s not surprising to find innovative minds at the Coca-Cola Company: Franck Nouyrigat reminds everybody that they’re “back to the roots”, back to the times of Candler, Pemberton, and Robinson, the first innovators of Coca-Cola.

10:30am: “There’s a study that says that the thing that most people dread after death is…public speaking!” explains Marc Nager. “That being said, who wants to pitch today?”. Surprisingly an incredible number of people courageously raise their hands and go line up to come on stage. They have 60 seconds to pitch and say who they are, what problem they want to solve, and who they need in their teams. UP Global’s VP of Business Development, Ludovic Ulrich, is the timer man for the day. At the end of the 60 seconds, a clapping sound emerge from the iPad. “Next!” The more people come on stage to pitch, the more add themselves to the end of the queue.

In total we count 46 business ideas pitched on this creative Wednesday morning.

12am: Lunch time is also the time when we select the projects that will be worked on during the “weekend”. Attendees distribute their votes -3M post-its- to their favorite ideas after a 30-min discussion/ Q&A session with the project leaders. It’s also the right time to convince people to join your team. Merging is trending at The Coca-Cola Company! Realising they pitched similar ideas some people decide to join forces and combine their votes to be selected.

Finally the list is narrowed down to 14 teams that will pivot and go through rebranding the next two days of the program:

  1. Bubble tea + International Taste, a ‘merger’ of ideas that was finally renamed World Beverage Exchange: a system that allows you to taste Coca-Cola beverages from all around the world such as Thums UP from India or Inca Kola from Peru.

  2. DateNight -finally renamed One of One- a Match.com for already matched people that helps you set up the perfect date with your significant other. Saving marriage one date at a time!

  3. Volunteer incentives + careCalendar -renamed Give Happiness Hub – a platform that leverages the Salesforce technology to better engage Coca-Cola employees in volunteering experiences.

  4. Corporate20 -renamed activeMEET. Remember Freshman 15? Well Corporate 20 is worse. Outlook-integrated ActiveMEET promotes walking and standing meetings to improve your health during your work day.

  5. CokeAudio -renamed LearnX- is a centralized and social learning platform for corporation employees that helps you gain knowledge during your commute time.

  6. Skip the queue is a gamification-based platform that helps you earn badges based on hours served that you can redeem to skip the queue at selected stores.

  7. Coca-Cola Kickstarter -renamed Coke Starter – wants to connect “people who want to get sh!t done” and “people who can make sh!t happen” in a Kickstarter platform dedicated to Coca-Cola employees.

  8. Mobile Design -renamed Coca-Cola SmartSell allows you to connect analysis, design, execution, and selling tools on mobile devices.

  9. Gutsmack -a competitive trash-talking league for guys to lose their guts. Rebrand male dieting with http://www.gutsmack.com/

  10. CardioCooler allows you to work out while generating power to charge your iPhone or Coca-Cola coolers.

  11. SheCan + Innocent -renamed Richly is a marketplace for people who want to “slim down”: buy less but more meaningful products.

  12. Urban Agriculture -renamed Home Grown- is a complete garden kit that maximizes space on rooftop gardens/balcony.

  13. Social Scramble -renamed blur allows you to enjoy your favorite shows spoiler-free. Their app blocks social media so that you can watch DVR-d sport events or TV shows without spoiled suspense.

  14. Once in a lifetime wants to increase employee engagement with a platform that identifies opportunities to develop employees and rewards them by inviting them to Once-in-a-lifetime events such as the Olympic Games.

1:00pm: In an incredibly smooth fashion teams move tables and chairs in the open space to organize their work space. Franck insists to not spread people in different rooms but to keep everybody working in the same environment. He’s right: team members have already started to scribble on whiteboards, drawing a business model canvas on giant paper charts and racking their brains to find the next million-dollar companies.

2:00pm: We unleash amazing coaches -industry professionals, subject matter experts, serial entrepreneurs- in this creative jungle.

Until late at night teams challenge their ideas, incorporate feedback into their business models,decide to pivot and focus on a different approach, review their problem statement, and keep asking “What’s our Unique Value Proposition?”

We encourage them to go out of the building, not only to get some fresh air but also to do some customer discovery.

8:00pm: Teams are still hard at work

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day #2

Coaches keep coming and giving feedback.

Teams keep improving their prototypes, business models, and presentations.

Some pivot drastically.

Hush hush, startup work in progress!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day #3 is probably the most stressful day of the program. Teams only have a few hours to polish their pitches and decks before the final presentations start at 1pm sharp.

However the Skip the queue team had enough bandwidth to order t-shirts!

12:30pm: The judges arrive. Coca-Cola’s Startup Weekend has the honor of welcoming an exceptional jury: Guy Wollaert, Chief Technical Officer, and Marie Quintero-Johnson, VP and Director, Mergers and Acquisitions, from The Coca-Cola Company; Blake Patton, General Manager, Advanced Technology Development Center, at Georgia Tech; Dr. Paul Judge, Chief Research Officer, at Barracuda Networks; and Rhonda Lowry, VP, Emerging Social Web Technologies, Media Camp Team at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.


Marc takes a few minutes to brief the panel since teams will be evaluated on a specific format – a 5-min presentation and a 4-min Q&A session with the judges- and three specific judging criteria:

  • Business Viability

    • Can this idea make money?

    • Has a revenue model been defined and is it realistic?

    • Would you invest in this company at this point?

    • Did the team investigate the market and talk to potential users to validate model?

    • Will solution increase productivity, fun, ease life, or save users time or money?

  • Presentation Quality

    • Were prototypes used in development of the idea?

    • Did the team conduct experiments to validate assumptions?

    • Did the prototypes show important aspects of the solution?

    • Is the prototype memorable and well executed for its purpose?

  • Prototype Quality

    • Was there a clear expression of problem to be solved (from user perspective)?

    • Was there a clear description and demonstration of the solution to the problem?

    • Was the presentation polished (delivery & visuals)?

    • Did the team answer the judge’s questions well?

    • Was there a collaborative and positive team dynamic?

1:00pm: The final presentations start in a packed room and keep running until 3pm.

3:30pm: The podium is announced:

  • 3rd-place winners: Give Happiness Hub

  • 2nd-place winners: Gutsmack

  • 1st-place winners: Skip the queue

  • …and a Special Prize is given to Coke Starter. The team will have the opportunity to pitch their project to Coca-Cola’s Operating Committee!

4:00pm: Attendees keep networking, tweeting some kind thank-you message, and asking when the next one will be!








Claire Topalian Claire Topalian
(@clairetopalian) Blog, Professional Writing, Communications and PR Specialist. I craft compelling, mission-driven content for companies and individuals that amplifies brand awareness, fosters community, and drives engagement. My experience includes work with tech startups, major corporations, and international non-profits. @clairetopalian